Dr. Lynn Margolies
Check out my Psychology Today post for practical tools to manage difficult feelings:
Breaking out of self-destructive habits requires deliberate action - not willpower, talking, or insight alone.
Escape behaviors are often an unconscious attempt to avoid shame and other difficult feeling states, but when they become habitual, they fuel more shame and isolation.
Unwanted behavior patterns can develop a life of their own but can be tackled with practical neuroscience based tools that leverage the way the brain works.
10 Points: Breaking the Cycle of Shame and Self-Destructive Behavior
by Dr. Lynn Margolies
Shame is: “I am bad” vs. “I did something bad.”
Shame involves an internalized feeling of being exposed and humiliated. Shame is different from guilt. Shame is a feeling of badness about the self. Guilt is about behavior - a feeling of “conscience” from having done something wrong or against one’s values.
Shame underlies self-destructive behaviors:
• Hidden shame often drives self-destructive behaviors and other psychological symptoms such as rage, avoidance, or addictions.
• Self-destructive behaviors often are an attempt to regulate overpowering, painful feelings but lead to more shame, propelling the self-destructive cycle.
• Secrecy, silence, and out-of-control behaviors fuel shame.
• Shame makes people want to hide and disappear, reinforcing shame.
• Shame is created in children through scolding, judging, criticizing, abandonment, sexual and physical abuse.
Breaking the Cycle of Shame
Breaking self-destructive habits requires action, not just willpower:
• Changing destructive behaviors requires trying out new, affirming behaviors to replace them.
• New behaviors that generate positive feedback and reward create new connections in the brain, creating the momentum for ongoing growth and change. (Learning on a neurobehavioral level)
Shame can be relieved and healed by:
• Taking healthy risks to be seen and known authentically, acting from a positive motive and trying out new behaviors in a safe (nonjudgmental) setting.
• Taking actions that generate pride - the antidote to shame.
• Breaking secrecy with people who understand.
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